Alex Salmond offered a junior reporter some sweets in a patronising stunt. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Alex Salmond labelled a "bully" as he offers a junior reporter some sweets

The Telegraph reveals Scotland's First Minister's literal sweet revenge on a young reporter asking difficult questions about an independent Scotland's future currency.

The Telegraph is running a piece about Alex Salmond being a "bully behind the mask", because of the way he treated a junior reporter asking him tricky questions about what the currency situation would be for an independent Scotland.

At a press conference, Scotland's First Minister announced in front of the press pack that he had promised to give 27-year-old Ben Riley-Smith, a Scottish political reporter at the Telegraph, some sweets. He handed him some Liquorice Allsorts, to which Riley-Smith reacted by saying, "and you don't think it's condescending at all to give sweets to a junior reporter?", and handing the sweets back. 

But that wasn't the end of Salmond's patronising stunt. Here's an extract from the article about what happened next:

After the question and answer session ended, Salmond again presented Riley-Smith with the sweets and said: “[Got] a wee fancy for Jelly Babies, son?, to which Riley- Smith said: "It just seems a bit patronising First Minister, doesn't it?"

First Minister: "That's OK, I'm perfectly happy to patronise you, Ben. [Laughs.] There's no harm meant."

Riley-Smith handed back the pack of sweets: "I just think it's a bit patronising, given I'm just trying to be professional."

First Minister: "You mustn't get irritable."

I'm a mole, innit.

Getty
Show Hide image

The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

0800 7318496